The Magic of the Rut

I love ruts, setbacks, and challenges. I say this tongue-in cheek, but do mean it. Let me explain. You see, once you overcome a big hurdle, what makes most folks quiver tends to not phase you. For me, getting out of an unfulfilling, near decade long relationship, failing at a business, losing track of health goals, and having to start completely over in my late 20s was that big hurdle. However, one to relish in my setbacks, I wouldn’t change a thing. So today I want to talk about two big themes that really carried me through the rut,which are contrast and management of expectations.

If I look back at all of my blunders and missteps, they were all rooted in mismanagement of expectations and an absence of contrast. And frankly, this is something that is killing us all on some level. With a lack of self awareness, we don’t know who we are, but instead, we know who we think we want to be. Let’s reflect for a moment, can you honestly separate your emotions from your true intentions? Can you embrace the present moment and not stew in the past or project into the future? If not, then how can you truly add value to another persons life via a relationship?

Granted it’s not so black and white when applied in the day to day, but hold that thought and let’s take a deeper look at what this all really means to your lifestyle and relationships:

Contrast: I know first hand the reason why my mid to late 20s stung so bad at the time was because I had such an enormous sense of entitlement around what I felt I deserved and what that corresponding lifestyle would look like. I was never a lazy guy. I never waited for shit to happen to me. But when things took off a little (or a lot) slower than I wanted them to, or even worse, when a peer experienced success while I was still stuck, it caused me to second guess, which inevitably changes the tone and dynamic of your effort. Taking a look at a formula for performance improvements described by Gary Klein in Seeing What Others Don’t, you can see that even if I completely stop second guessing or comparing, that alone wont take me to success. It’s missing a major ingredient — contrast. Klein describes the sweet spot of decreasing errors while increasing insight as the key to achieving more and doing it at a higher level. This rings true for me as until I added serious reading, risk taking, and adventure into the equation, my perspective was rather bleak and narrow.

Managing Expectations: Truly fundamental in allowing any growth and development in relationships or other areas to take shape and hold, the art of managing your expectations also allows you to not become completely out of touch as you start to thrive and experience growth. According to Eckhart Tolle, non resistance, non judgment, and non attachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living. For now I want to focus on the freedom part. There is an air of freedom missing from all of our lives. In a way we have more freedom than ever available but we don’t know how to embrace it due to the tight hold we place on expectations. I am not by any means excluded from this. And I think all of us can see the tone that dominates not only romantic relationships but all relationships across the board. A tone that says I must live up to this persons expectations and they more importantly must live up to mine. And if that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t be dominated by digital communication where everything can be spoon fed and controlled, including the inflated self image and ego that drives any random Match.com profile. The biggest paradox within all of this is that we accept a lot more than we actually like in this new digital landscape, says Sherry Turkle in Reclaiming Conversation. However, it appears we have become so far gone and detached from being comfortable with genuine communication, as well as maintaining conventional relationships, that we have submit to lower quality, but highly accessible relationships instead.

So rather than end with straight actionable insight, I am opting for pure reflection instead. What resonates with you while reading this? Do you feel these concepts relate to your current relationships? Your career? Have an alternate framework related to these concepts? Drop a line and lets connect!

-Jus’ Black